By JOHN T. WARD
A non-nonsense staple from the days before Red Bank became flooded with chic eateries, Mr. Pizza Slice has changed hands for the second time in two years.
This time, the buyers are the owners of two downtown restaurants. They closed the pizzeria last week for what they expect will be a month or so of interior and exterior renovations, one of them told redbankgreen’s Retail Churn Monday.
Also closed last week: Sicilia Cafe, on Broad Street, which was acquired by first-time restaurateurs just six months ago.
Best known for the food item in its name, as well as its cheesy ’70s-era paneling and formica-topped tables, Mr. Pizza Slice has been acquired by Tom Cappello, owner of Gaetano’s, on Wallace Street, and Nick Napoletano, who owns Whipped Bites two doors away from the pizzeria with Erica Lieberman.
Steve Napolitani owned and ran the business for 44 years, retiring in October, 2013: check out the priceless video of his last goodbye if you haven’t seen it. Phil Sloan, who worked with Napolitani for 16 years, took over from Napolitani.
Why buy a pizzeria?
“I had my eyes on this place for a long time,” said Cappello, who got his start in the food business with a pizzeria in Runnemede before finding success in Seaside Heights [see a 2011 profile of Cappello here.] “Nobody knows how to make pizza around here. “It’s unbelievable.”
He said was drawn to the simplicity of the business model. Plus, he said, he likes the idea of giving new life to a Red Bank institution. Gaetano’s, he reminds us, replaced the well-loved Ludwig’s Deli.
Mr. Pizza Slice will retain its name, Cappello said, and the menu will be expanded so that it includes a half-dozen sandwiches, as well as Sicilian (deep dish) and Roman (rectangular) pizzas along with the standard tomato pie. Cappello said he and Napoletano own the business 50-50 and will split management duties.
Bear Holdings LLC of Ocean Township is the landlord, having acquired the building in August, 2013 for $560,000, according to Monmouth County records.
Sicilia, which was acquired last July by former computer salesman Mark Arabajis and his wife, Deidre, from the Sorriso family, closed on December 29, according to a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page. A new eatery will be opening in the space at the corner of Broad Street and Peters Place during the first quarter of the year, the post said.
The Arabadjises did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Sorriso family opened Sicilia five years ago and still owns the Saladworks restaurant next door.